Review Blog

Nov 06 2020

The fire wombat by Jackie French

cover image

Illus. by Danny Snell. Angus & Robertson, 2020. ISBN: 9781460759332.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Based on sightings of animals taking shelter in wombat burrows during the recent bush fires, Jackie French has written a book displaying imagination, courage and companionship. Snell's wonderful digital illustrations warn readers of the impending fire as they open the book. A page shows a small scene with smoke in the distance, over the page the smoke is more prominent and when the story opens it is obvious a bushfire is looming as the wombat pokes her head out fo her burrow, sensing fire. French's seemingly simple rhyming lines urge the reader to stop and reread each line, taking all the substance from the words, predicting their own words to finish each phrase.
As the fire takes hold, birds fly away, goannas and echidnas bury themselves under the earth, but for some there is no place to hide. So they follow the wombat into her burrow and shelter until the fire passes.
Emerging from her burrow the animals are met by a scene of utter devastation. Their paws burn, there is no food or water, and their usual shelter is gone. But noise overhead sees a helicopter dropping food and water, and the animals are saved from hunger and thirst. Many volunteers, aware of the plight of the animals affected by the bushfire, brought in food, particularly carrots to keep the animals alive, and in the following days, birds returned, mice carried seeds, new shoots appeared and finally rain fell.
Wombat walked but not alone, the last lines of French's poem, a tribute to all the volunteers who helped with the aftermath of the fires, keeping animals alive in their time of great need, ensuring the bush comes alive once again.
This wonderful tale will lift the spirits of those children who have read and seen so much of the fire's devastation, seeing something positive come from something so overwhelmingly fearful. French's words give hope, she is able to distil a positive note to end on, one that all children will take to heart as they read of the wombat and the part she played in saving some of her compatriots.
Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Fire, Wombats, Fire safety, Volunteers.
Fran Knight

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